Best Ultralight Sleeping Pads for Backpacking 2024

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

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This is a gear review about the Best Ultralight Sleeping Pads for Backpacking 2024.

Sleeping Mats are better in 2024 than ever before with many top brands stepping up their game when it comes to comfort, weight, and small pack size. The quality of the ultralight sleeping pads in this review is a huge leap forward from only a couple of years ago.

Keep reading to find out which one is right for you.

How We Tested

All the Sleeping Pads in this review have been extensively evaluated and researched by the expert author who has more than 30 years of experience in Thru-Hiking, Backpacking, and Hiking. Some of the Sleeping Mats were purchased and some were supplied by the manufacturer. They have been rigorously tested by the author in all kinds of weather. The research, testing, and experience of the author have combined to come up with the Best Sleeping Pads for 2024. Read the Review Policy for further details.

Best Lightweight Sleeping Pads for Backpacking 2024

The Best Lightweight Sleeping Pads for Backpacking 2024 are:

Best Sleeping Pad – Overall

Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT Sleeping Pad

Thermarest Neoair Xlite NXT - One of the best ultralight sleeping pads

Weight – 12.5 oz / 350g (regular)
R-Value –
Temperature Rating –
(5F / -15C)

> Quiet
> Lightweight
> Good thermal insulation
> Small pack size
> A premium product at a premium price

The newly updated Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT is new to the market and sure to be as popular as the previous model.

When I used and tested the new Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT I noticed that it is quiet. Gone is the crinkle sound every time you roll over at night that plagued the older model. Yes, there is some sound as it is not completely quiet but it is much more manageable. As a result of these improvements, the Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT is worthy of the top spot as the best sleeping pad for 2024.

Therm-a-Rest increased the insulation rating a little from an R-value of 4.2 to 4.5. This is not really significant, but it is enough for many people to use this pad for winter camping instead of the much better-insulated X-Therm NXT. This makes this sleeping mat much more versatile.

The mat is 3 inches / 7.6 cm thick which is also a slight increase but the extra half inch but when I tested the mat I found that it was not really that noticeable. Having said that, this sleeping mat is very comfortable. Certainly suitable for even the fussiest of side sleepers.

It comes in 4 sizes, namely short, regular, regular wide, and large. I think the regular will be the most popular size and it is the one that I would recommend.

Overall, the Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT is the best sleeping pad for backpacking 2024.

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Read the full in-depth review of the Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad – Runner Up

Nemo Tensor Insulated Mummy Review

Nemo Tensor Insulated Mummy Ultralight Sleeping Pad Review

Weight – 14.5 oz / 410g
R-Value –
Temperature Rating –
(10F / -12C)

> Silence when rolling over
> Great warranty
> Small pack size
> Very comfortable
> Great for Side Sleepers
> Slightly heavier than similar spec pads

Nemo has a large selection of lightweight sleeping pads for camping. The Nemo Tensor Insulated is arguably one of their best backpacking sleeping pads.

I have spent more than 500 nights using and testing this backpacking sleeping pad in the last few years on trails such as the Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Bike Touring North and South America.

During all those nights of testing, I found the Nemo Tensor Insulated to be one of the most comfortable air pads of all the mattresses in this review. A combination of its thickness and the fact that it is quiet. Making it perfect for the side sleeper.  

The only other lightweight sleeping pad in this review that is equal to the Nemo Tensor for comfort is the Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated which is also quiet but slightly thicker.

At 14oz / 410g the Nemo Tensor Insulated is a lightweight insulated sleeping pad but the best thing about this mattress is how quiet it is when rolling over.

I used this mattress on my thru-hike of the Te Araroa Trail and loved it, however, I did get a couple of small holes near the internal baffles.

There are a couple of different versions of the Nemo Tensor. In my opinion, the Insulated mummy is the best.

The Regular Tensor Mummy weighs, 12oz / 345g, which is a bit lighter than the insulated but not as suited to cold temperatures below 35F / 2C.

For extreme cold temperatures down to -20F / -29C there is the Nemo Tensor Alpine. At only 475 grams this is the best option for cold climates, like climbing Kilimanjaro or Trekking in the Andes and Himalayas.

Overall, the Nemo Tensor Insulated is one of the best backpacking sleeping pads for 2024.

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Read the full in-depth review of the Nemo Tensor Insulated

Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite Review

Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite

Weight – 8.8 oz / 250 grams
R-Value –
Temperature Rating –
(37F / 3C)

> Ultralight
> Very small pack size
> Not as noisy as Neo Air
> Comfortable
> Best for summer use only
> Premium product at a premium price
> Thin material might be prone to punctures

The Therm-a-rest NeoAir Uberlite is one of the best ultralight sleeping pads on the market.

It weighs a ridiculous 8.8 oz / 250 grams and packs up smaller than a 1 liter Nalgene Bottle.

It also comes in a short version which is 6 oz / 170 grams which is big enough to cover people from head to hips. A carefully placed empty backpack can insulate the feet in warm temperatures. It is enough to keep any gram-counting ultra-light hiker happy. But there is a catch.

To make the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Uberlite mattress so light it does not have as much thermal material inside. This mat has an R Rating of 2.3 or 37F / 3C, making this a borderline 3-season backpacking mattress. It is also made of super thin material that feels only slightly thicker than a trash bag. So beware of using this mat in areas filled with thorns such as you will find in the deserts of the world.

When I tested and used the Uberlite I loved the lightweight and how small it packed. This is my go-to summer sleeping pad during the warmer summer months. During testing, I noted that the weight saving is worth it. I tested the sleeping pad in semi-desert areas with lots of sharp spikes and did not have any issues with holes. I would not use this mattress on a notoriously cold trail such as the Continental Divide Trail or trails through the desert where lots of spikey plants live.

Overall, the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Uberlite is the best ultralight sleeping pad on the market right now! But is it strong enough in the long term? Read the full in-depth review below.

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Read the full in-depth review of the Thermarest Neoair Uberlite

Best Lightweight Sleeping Pad

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Review

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Sleeping Pad

Weight – 13.8 oz / 390 grams
R-Value –
Temperature Rating –
(47 F / 8 C)

> Perfect for side sleepers
> Lightweight
> Stuff sac can be used to inflate the mattress
> Not insulated enough for very cold temperatures.

The Sea to Summit Ether light XT has recently been updated to be a little more insulated but still keeping the super comfortable thickness and ultra-lightweight.

At a generous 4 inches/10cm thick this is the thickest mattress in this review and the most comfortable.

This is the best ultralight sleeping pad for side sleepers. The thickness and air-sprung cells make it super comfortable for even the fussiest of side sleepers.

It is also made of materials that make it very quiet when tossing and turning during the night.

It is ultra-lightweight at 13.8 oz / 390 grams but should only be used in warmer weather due to the 1.2 R-value. The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated version is slightly heavier at 17.3 oz / 490 grams but for slide sleepers, it is a better option.

Such a thick mattress comes at the cost of needing many breaths to inflate it but Sea to Summit has solved this problem by adapting the Stuff Sack so it can be used to inflate the mattress. 

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Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers

Sea to Summit Ether lite XT Insulated Review

Sleeping pad review of the Sea to Summit Etherlite

Weight: 17.3 oz / 490 grams
R-Value – 3.2
Temperature Rating –
(23F / -5C)

> Thick mattress which is great for side sleepers
> Well Insulated
> Very comfortable
> Quiet when you roll over during the night
> A little heavy

The Sea to Summit Etherlite Insulted is the best-insulated sleeping pad for side sleepers. If you are a side sleeper like me and dislike when thin mattresses crush your hip and shoulder into the ground then this is for you.

Like the non-insulated summer version of the Etherlite, this sleeping mat is quiet when you roll over in the middle of the night. Add to that the super comfortable feel and good insulation and you have a great pad for not only summer hiking trips but backpacking trips in the cooler months.

It has a good system for inflating the pad which uses the stuff sack to inflate the mat. My only wish is that this mat was a little lighter. But when you want comfort, look no further, this is the best.

Overall, if you are a slide sleeper and want a sleeping pad for cooler temperatures then this is for you. It is also one of the most comfortable mats in this review.

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Best Winter Sleeping Pad

Therma-Rest NeoAir X-Therm NXT Review

Therm A Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT review

Weight – 15.5 oz / 439 grams
R-Value –
Temperature rating –
(-32F / -36C)

> Great warmth-to-weight ratio
> Great warranty
> Small pack size
> Reasonably priced considering the quality
> The extra insulation is a waste of weight and money if not hiking in colder temperatures.

All the same great quality as all the other Therm a Rest pads but with more insulation to help with those cold sleepers who need all the help they can get to stay warm.

At 15.5oz / 439g the Therm A Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT was recently upgraded is one of the best backpacking sleeping pads for cold temperatures.

The Therm A Rest NeoAir X-Therm is very lightweight, super comfortable, and reasonably priced.

This is a great option for anyone wanting to spend time outdoors during the colder parts of the year.

With an R-Value of 7.3 and more than 2 ounces / 57 grams lighter than the previous model it makes for the best winter sleeping pad. It would be perfect for high-altitude hikes or bicycle tours in the Andes or Himalayas or for the cold sleeper who wants a bit more insulation.

I used the Therm a Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT lightweight inflatable pad while thru-hiking the coldest sections of the Sierra Section of the Pacific Crest Trail and had no reason to feel any cold transfer from the mattress below me.

Overall, the Therm A Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT is the Best Winter Sleeping Pad for 2024.

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Best Budget Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest Z lite Sol Review

Therm-a-Rest Z lite Sol

Weight – 14 oz / 410 grams
R-Value –
Temperature Rating –
(34F / 1C)

> Lightweight
> Cheap
> Good insulation in cold
> No punctures when sleeping near cactus or other spiny plants
> Bulky packed size
> Uncomfortable for most people

At around $35, the Therm a Rest Z-Lite Sol is one of the best closed-cell foam pads for the budget-conscious person.

The lightweight Z-Lite Sol closed-cell foam pad weighs only 14oz / 410g and is the best foam sleeping pad on the market.

It provides enough comfort for most tired people. But if you are a side sleeper, this sleeping pad will not be the most comfortable.

This closed cell foam pad is also a favorite with the speedy hikers who love to throw down the mattress and sleep anywhere, anytime, ‘Hikertrash‘ style!

Unlike the other sleeping pads for backpacking in this review, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite will not get punctured and deflate at the worst moment.

A great option for cactus-filled deserts.

The foam sleeping pad also provides great insulation making it a great sleeping pad for backpacking in snow.

This is one of the best closed-cell foam sleeping pads on the market at the moment with a great budget price and overall it is still a nice light sleeping pad.

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Other Sleeping Mats to Consider

Sea to Summit Ultralight Review

Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Weight – 13.9 oz / 395 grams
R-Value –
Temperature Rating

> Lightweight
> Good summer use mattress
> Comes with a stuff sack that is used to inflate the mat
> Summer use only

The Sea to Summit Ultralight sleeping pads is another great value mattress for spending time in the backcountry.

At 14oz / 395g the Sea to Summit Ultralight is lightweight with enough insulation for summer hiking in warm temperatures.

When it gets cold the Sea to Summit Ultra Light Insulated is a better option.

The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated weighs 17oz/480g and is rated for temperatures 22F/-5C.

The air pad comes with a stuff sack that can be used to inflate the mattress. Great for preventing stinky breath from contaminating the inside of the pads.

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Other Mats to Consider

  • Nemo Switchback: The Nemo Switchback is a lightweight foam mat that is also very good and reasonably priced.
  • Therm-a-rest Prolite Plus: The Therm-a-rest Prolite Plus is a self-inflating mat. I used this mat for years and years, in fact, I started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail carrying this mat before opting for something lighter and more comfortable.
  • Nemo Tensor Extreme: The Nemo Tensor Extreme is relatively new to the market and their winter rated sleeping pad.
  • REI Co-Op Helix Insulated: The REI Co-Op Helix Insulated is a good 3-season pad but a bit on the heavy side compared with all the other models in this review.
Gear testing the Nemo Tensor Sleeping pad while backpacking
Testing the Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking on the Continental Divide Trail

Sleeping Pad Comparison Table

Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT12.5 oz3 in.4.5Inflatable
Nemo Tensor Insulated Mummy14.5 oz3 in.4.2Inflatable
Thermarest Uberlite8.8 oz2.5 in.2.3Inflatable
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT13.8 oz4 in.1.5Inflatable
Sea to Summit Ether Lite XT Insulated17.3 oz4 in.3.2Inflatable
Thermarest Neoair X-Therm NXT15.5 oz3 in.7.3Inflatable
Z Lite Sol14 oz0.75 in.2.6Foam
Sea to Summit Ultralight13.9 oz2 in.1.1Inflatable
Source: Manufacturers

Types of Sleeping Pads

Inflatable Sleeping Pads

The Inflatable air pad has come a long way from the crude rubber mattresses with built-in pillows. Also, gone are the days of self-inflating mattresses. I once used to own a Therm-A-Rest Prolite self-inflating mattress but those days are long gone. Things have improved a lot with the inflatable sleeping pad since then.

Ultralight, high-tech materials, and lifetime warranties make them the best option for sleeping away from home.

But the high cost and possibility of getting a hole can frustrate people at times.

Testing the Thermarest Neoair Xlite NXT Backpacking Sleeping Pad to see if it is quiet and comfortable
Testing the Thermarest Neoair Xlite NXT Backpacking Sleeping Pad to see if it is quiet and comfortable

Foam Sleeping Pads

Foam Sleeping pads have long been the favorite due to their budget price, great thermal qualities, and ease of use. Just roll out the foam pad and fall asleep.

But for anyone who is a side sleeper or needs a comfortable bed this option is painful and not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Overall, the inflatable mattress and foam pads have good and bad points. But now is the era of the inflatable mattress. Advances in technology will only see things get better.

Will the best backpacking sleeping pads ever be puncture resistant!

Self Inflating Pads

The self-inflating pads were very popular many years ago but their popularity has decreased in recent years. Just open the valve, let the air in, give a few breaths to reach your desired pressure, and the mat is inflated. They are simple but heavy. The larger versions make a good car camping option or something to have at home when unexpected guests arrive. They also tend to have a good r-value rating for insulation.

Gear testing the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad in winter conditions on the Sierra of the Pacific Crest Trail
Testing the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm in the Cold Sierra of the Pacific Crest Trail

Side Sleeper vs Back Sleeper

I am a side sleeper. Just the thought of sleeping on a closed cell foam mattress brings pain to all parts of my body. Therefore, it is important to know how you sleep when choosing a mattress.

Side sleepers want a thick mattress. The thicker core on the air pads is more comfortable but it takes more breath to blow up. Many have stuff sacks that double as pump sacks to inflate the inflatable pads.

Back sleepers are usually able to withstand a thinner mattress a lot better. Therefore, any mattress in this review would work out well for them in the comfort stakes.

All the backpacking air pads except the Z Lite foam pad would be good for side sleepers. Those with a sore back would not like the Therm a Rest z Lite Sol.

Side Sleeping sleeping mats and Gear Testing the Nemo Tensor Insulated in the snow on the Continental Divide Trail
Side Sleeping and Gear Testing the Nemo Tensor Insulated in the snow on the Continental Divide Trail

R-Value and Warmth

The Sleeping Pad R-Value, when used in the context of measuring Sleeping Mats, refers to the ability of the mattress to stop the transfer of heat or cold through the pad. In simple terms, it refers to warmth.

In cold weather, a high R-Value sleeping pad will serve to reduce the cold temperatures from snow or frozen ground transferring to the person sleeping on the pad.

This is important when camping in winter or the colder times of the year.

Below is an R-Value temperature chart. The R-Value Sleeping Pad prevents temperature transfer from the cold to the warmth of the body and sleeping bag. into Temperature.

The video below by Exped explains what the R-Value is and how it refers to sleeping mats in a detailed yet informative way.

R Value and Temperature rating conversion chart.


A lightweight sleeping mat should weigh less than 15 oz / 430 grams with the ultralight mats being significantly less. The thickness, width, shape, and amount of insulation all add to the overall weight. The thinner the fabric the lighter the mat but the less durable it will be. Every couple of years there is some form of new innovation from the manufacturers resulting in a lighter weight.

Sleeping Pad Packed Size

All these lightweight air mats are compact enough to be rolled up to the size of a 1 liter Nalgene bottle, with the exception of the Z Lite foam pad.

I rarely use a stuff sack. I just roll it up and stuff it in my backpack. When hiking and bicycle touring I roll the mattress up and pack it inside my sleeping bag but only when it is dry.

Many of the companies include a stuff sack that also has a valve to use as a way of inflating the mattress.

A good idea to prevent stinky, humid breath from entering the mattress, but is the extra weight worth it!

Some of the Backpacking Sleeping pads inside their stuff sacks
Some of the Backpacking Sleeping pads inside their stuff sacks


Most of the mats in this review are quite robust but they will develop holes when camping in areas with thorns or other spikey plants capable of puncturing the mat. There is nothing worse than waking in the middle of the night with a flat mattress.

Some of the mats are not as durable as others. The Therm-a-rest Neo Air Uberlite is a prime example of a mat taking it to the limit of thin material. This comes at the cost of durability. As many hikers and campers have found out, it is important to be a little fussier when choosing your campsite at night. Those with a closed-cell foam mat can sleep wherever they want with little fear of the durability of their mat.

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads that are durable for backpacking

Care Instructions

How to Look After a Lightweight Sleeping Pad

  • Prevent dirt and body oils from coming in contact with the mattress by using sleep clothing such as long merino pants and a long merino top. Some people use a sleeping bag liner too.
  • Do not allow Deet mosquito repellent, fuel from stoves, or embers from a campfire to get anywhere near a mattress. Wash them off immediately.
  • If campfire embers contact your mattress, you might have an uncomfortable night’s sleep with the backpacking air mats deflating!
  • A wet sleeping mattress can be packed up while wet for the short term. It is not always possible to keep the mattress dry. Be sure and air it out (with the valve open) as soon as possible.
  • Ensure the campsite is free of thorns or sharp objects that might puncture the air mattress.

How to clean and store a Sleeping Mat

  • It is also a good idea to wash the mattress with a sponge and warm soapy water.
  • Make sure the air valve is closed when washing.
  • Unroll and unpack the mattress and let it air out for at least a day or two.
  • Hang or store the mattress in a cool dry place, inside a wardrobe with clothing, or under a bed works well for me.

How to repair a mattress in the field

  • Finding the hole can be a problem. Rivers and lakes are the best places to blow up the mattress and try to find the hole.
  • Clean the area around the hole. A small alcohol wipe found in first aid kits is good for cleaning the area. When it is clean and dry, use a small sticky contact patch such as a Tenacious Tape Patch.
  • A small drop of liquid seam sealer can be used to repair very small leaks but not larger holes. Make sure it is a silicon-based seam sealer such as this Silicon Seam Sealer.

Ever slept on a slope and woken up to find the mattress slipped overnight and pressed against the bottom of the tent?
Add Silicon Seam Sealer on the bottom of your air mattress to stop it from slipping and sliding around in your tent at night, especially if your tent is pitched on a slope. But only use a silicon-based sealer, not the water-based one.

Inflatable Mattress Warranty

Inflatable mattresses have a bad reputation for not only getting holes but delaminating from the inside. The internal baffles which are important for the integrity of the mattress often fail, causing a large bubble to appear.

I have had this happen to several of the well-known brands and each time the warranty of the companies has been rock solid.

These companies stand behind their products. Failure to do so would destroy the confidence in buying such a lightweight piece of gear. Hence the rise of the air mattress and the decline of the foam mattress.

Price and Value

All the best air mats in this review are top quality and will last a very long time. Hundreds or even thousands of nights can be expected if you care for your mat. Therefore, they represent good value for money even when the initial outlay may seem a bit high. Around the $200 mark and lower is the price you will pay for the best.

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad – Overall

Overall the Best Sleeping Pad for Backpacking in 2024 is the Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT which just beat the previous best, the Nemo Tensor Insulated.

The Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite NXT is the best combination of comfort, insulation, quietness, price, and lightweight.

Thermarest Neoair Xlite NXT Sleeping pad is the best sleeping pad

Best Ultralight Sleeping Pad – Overall

The best ultralight sleeping pad will only be best as a 3-season sleeping pad. The sleeping pads for backpacking in the summer months are the Uberlite from Thermarest.

The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT is thicker and better for side sleepers but the Therm a rest Uberlite is lighter weight.

These mats are ultra-light but more fragile than the others, so choose the campsite well. In temperatures below freezing, these are not the best choices.

Thermarest Neoair Uberlite is the best ultralight sleeping pad

Best Sleeping Pad for Winter Backpacking

For cold temperatures, the best lightweight sleeping pads are the

These are suitable for winter camping or high-altitude trekking. The Nemo Tensor Alpine is more comfortable and quiet, and the Therm a Rest X-Therm NXT is lighter.

Are you heading to the Himalayan or Andes mountains for some high-altitude trekking? or want a mat to use in winter? These would be the ones to consider.

Best Sleeping Pad for Side Sleepers?

The Best Sleeping Pad for side sleepers are:

All are super comfortable thick mattresses that will ensure a better night’s sleep for side sleepers than some of the thinner sleeping pads in this review.

Best Budget Sleeping Pad

The best budget sleeping pads are:


The Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads for 2024 are:

Another one of the Best Backpacking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.
Best Lightweight Sleeping Pads
Best Insulated Sleeping Pads for Backpacking
Best Sleeping Pads

BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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